How to get a great Medical Elective Experience in Africa!
By: Violet Mwango
Undertaking a medical elective overseas is an opportunity to experience a unique and different hospital setting. One not only gets exposed to variety of diseases they are not accustomed to, for instance malaria for those intending to travel to Africa. Besides new diseases and epidemiological conditions one gets to also gain cultural understanding of different people. The opportunities of learning present are vast and so there is need to ensure that one directs effort and energy towards ensuring that you have a good experience.
Having worked with Elective Africa, a Africa Medical Elective healthcare organizer for a number of years, this is what I have learnt and what I would advise anyone seeking to undertake a medical elective abroad.
Planning Makes ‘Perfect’
Undertaking an elective abroad comes with a lot of planning. You need to decide on where and when you are looking to undertake your placement abroad. This will help you in finding a suitable hospital placement program and even accommodation for your stay abroad. The uncertainty that comes with travelling abroad makes the experience even more adventurous. However, conquering the bureaucratic maze in unfamiliar territory on a daily basis can be quite daunting if undertaking it alone. I guess that is why a number of placement organizer exist to ensure that you get a hassle free placement and ease in set up. If you decide to do it, with or without the placement organizer, it needs to be done prior.
Setting your objectives
Earl Nightingale speaks about success as an outcome of setting and achieving goals outlined prior and this is also true when it comes to your elective abroad. Write down your objectives on what you would like to achieve by the end of your placement and share it with your organizer who should share it with your supervisor at the hospital. This way you are able to measure every single day if your objectives were met and if travelling abroad for the medical elective was worth it.
Not a single day passes without seeing a meme of some of the challenges medical students go through. One that always cracks my ribs is one doctor claiming a patient’s health condition is complicated because they never researched the assignment left by the professor. On a serious note though, always be open minded when undertaking your medical elective abroad. One thing is for sure, the system are different from yours, the health conditions may not be similar to what you experience in your country, and the resources may also not be what you are used to. In all of these, you need to learn how the local healthcare people work. Sometimes you may not agree with how they do things but don’t stray away from your objectives but rather learn the local innovations and treatment methods employed even amidst limited resources. Your supervisor may not always be with you but you will be in the company of a great healthcare team. Follow them through to see to it that you learn and enrich your trip abroad!
Any elective without fun make you a dull doc. You shouldn’t miss the chance to have fun in a new place. There are a lot of experiences, activities and places to go that will blow your mind away. After a long day at the hospital try out some new cuisine, dance, or even undertake a local excursion.
Travelling abroad for a medical elective placement has been and still is one of the most exiting experiences for a Medical Student. Making it the best experience possible is the surest way to keep it education and exciting!
Violet Mwango is a Placement Advisor at Elective Africa an organizer of educational and expedition travel programs in Kenya and Tanzania. #LifeofaMedStudent has no financial relationship with Elective Africa.
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